EDITORIAL: W.Va. in trouble with ignorance at the helm

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Aug. 4—There's nothing quite like the chill of terror that runs down your spine when you realize the people dictating the laws that constrain your life are a bunch of ignoramuses.

This, of course, in reference to some of the stunningly stupid comments West Virginia senators made on the final day of the special session. (We'll leave our discussion of how the whole effort was a waste of taxpayer money for our Sunday edition.)

Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, posited that he couldn't support an amendment to allow an abortion for rape /incest victims who report the abuse to a mandatory reporter instead of police, because rape victims often have romantic feelings for their abusers and sometimes mandatory reporters are abusers and want to have the victim get an abortion to cover their misdeeds.

First, while it is true that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, about 10 %-14 % of rapes are by an intimate partner. Overall, according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, about one-third of rape victims continue a relationship (romantic or not) with their assailant. The vast majority of those are "unacknowledged " rape victims: women who are trying to live their lives as if nothing happened.

Second, the number of mandatory reporters who are also rapists is so low, the statistics are virtually nonexistent. The figures available relate specifically to children and to disabled adults ; these two groups have more frequent, prolonged contact with teachers, counselors or physicians who may also be predators. However, there is nothing to suggest that mandatory reporting rapists use their position to force their victims to get abortions. Being raped by a mandatory reporter, such as a teacher or doctor, unfortunately happens, but it can't be used to justify forcing women to file police reports instead of disclosing the assault to a mandatory reporter in order to obtain an abortion.

The next absurdity came from Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, who justified his objection to a rape /incest exception altogether by arguing that women would use false rape claims as an excuse to get an abortion so they could use abortion as birth control.

Tarr must not be familiar with West Virginia's existing abortion laws. First, a woman would have to calculate how far along she is to see if she even qualifies for an abortion, then she has to make the decision that it's the best course of action. Next, she has to make an appointment with the Women's Health Center of West Virginia, the state's last abortion clinic, which may be days to months from now. If she can't get in with WHCWV, she'll have to find a clinic in another state. Then, she'll have to take two days off work, at minimum: The first day to travel to the clinic and have her initial appointment—complete with state-directed "counseling " designed to dissuade her and an ultrasound with photo—and the second day to actually have the procedure, because there's a 24-hour waiting period.

But if using abortion as birth control was a legitimate concern (which it isn't), the solution would not be to eliminate rape exceptions but to make birth control affordable—even free—and easily accessible.

The final vitriolic comments came from Sen. Mike Azinger. Before the special session closed, Sen. Mike Caputo read aloud a letter from Ash Orr, who is transgender and was a childhood rape victim and abortion patient. Azinger responded at the time with "horrific comments, " as Orr described in an online post. Orr then emailed the senator.

Azinger responded with Hollywood-style "mean girl " vindictiveness. Besides including transphobic attacks, Azinger called Orr's statement "pathetic " and them "arrogant " for assuming that Azinger was actually listening while his fellow senator talked. He ended by saying Orr should "flee " to God. His caustic response was not only unbecoming of an elected official, but it more than hinted that the Legislature's anti-abortion bill has more to do with senators' religious beliefs than good-faith lawmaking.

Such jaw-dropping ignorance—and downright spitefulness—from senators make it clear these men have no business legislating on pregnancy or abortion when they don't understand how either work, Instead, they are operating on religious ideologies and obviously sexist "understandings " of women.